PEN America, the free expression advocacy group, released a statement slamming the “unprecedented limitations on the Congressional press corps during President Trump’s imminent impeachment trial.”
We noted yesterday that the press corps has publicly objected to the new restrictions, which include byzantine security checkpoints, restrictions on movement, and limits on photography and recording. The rules are ostensibly in the name of safety but in practice squelch the ability of reporters attempting to cover the trial from doing their jobs. In a letter to Senate leadership, the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which represents credentialed journalists in the press galleries in the House and Senate, wrote that it appears the restrictions are “being done mostly to protect Senators from the bright light of the public knowing what they are doing in one of the country’s most important moments.”
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From PEN America’s press release, here is the statement from Thomas Melia, the group’s Washington director:
Moments of national crisis require credible and consistent reporting. Instead, Capitol Police and the sergeant-at-arms are jeopardizing press freedom and the public’s right to know. This is no time to be limiting press access on Capitol Hill. These extreme limitations far surpass those applied during the Clinton impeachment trial or the contentious nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. These measures would obstruct the work of journalists covering the Senate. They constitute an unacceptable effort to block the free flow of information at a time when that information is necessary to the functioning of our democracy. Officials should reject these types of inappropriate limitations.